Bulgaria to Inspect EU Funded Environmental Projects from 2010 - 2013
The temporary suspension of payments under the EU Operational Program "Environment" was triggered by irregularities in projects from the period 2010-2013.
In a Thursday interview for private TV station bTV, Environment Minister Iskra Mihaylova made clear that the reasons for the funds freeze had been outlined in a letter of the European Commission to Bulgaria.
"There were several letters of the European Commission, and the last one, over which several payments to Bulgaria were stopped, said that an inspection of the projects in the period 2010-2013 had to be made," she declared.
Mihaylova argued that the managing authority of OP "Environment" was to blame for the penalty, adding that the body had kept making mistakes, despite the series of letters indicating the shortcomings.
"The matter involves the suspension of interim payments under the Environment OP. The EC tells us that they will stop payments to our country until we impose control and introduce normal schemes for public procurement," she pointed out.
She explained that under the optimistic scenario, Bulgaria would cope with the requirements in 3 months, and a total of 200-250 million would be certified.
Mihaylova said that suggestions had been made that Bulgaria could suffer losses from financial corrections amounting to 10% of projects worth BGN 2 B.
The Environment Minister assured that the bill would be footed by the municipalities which had allowed the shortcomings.
"There are two levels of the problem – one is the management of operational programs. The projects are to be audited on an annual basis. Audits have not been conducted since 2009. In 2011, a horizontal financial correction worth over BGN 500 000 was made. Our payments were halted over irregularities in projects between 2010 and 2013, the letter says it," she said.
"In end-October, we received a letter referring to financial corrections and projects from 2008-2009 but the payments were made in 2010. The letter now requires the authorities to examine the period 2010-2013," Mihaylova stated.
On Wednesday, a letter of the European Commission confirmed that the temporary freeze of payments under OP "Environment" stemmed from the reluctance, lasting close to three years, of former rulers from the center-right party Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) to comply with the report of the European Court of Auditors from 2011, which called for the imposition of bigger financial corrections in projects funded with EU money.
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